The history of official Star Wars strategy games typically begins with works by West End Games, starting with Star Warriors in 1987. This starfighter combat game features a hex grid poster map of outer space, a familiar piece of game equipment to science fiction board wargamer fans of Star Fleet Battles and Starfire. West End Games followed Star Warriors with two more "hex-and-counter" Star Wars games: Assault on Hoth (1988) and Battle for Endor (1989).
|Tsukuda Hobby's Original Trilogy in hex-and-counter format|
Photo by the author
It turns out that board wargame ("simulation game" in Japan) fans in Japan played their first official Star Wars game in 1982 with the release of Death Star (a.k.a. "The Game of Death Star Combat in Star Wars"). As you can surmise, this starfighter combat game recreates the Battle of Yavin as a ragtag bunch of Rebel Alliance snubfighters dared to strike against the Galactic Empire's dreaded battlestation, the Death Star. The somewhat complex rules rival Star Warriors in complexity, though the two games are quite different.
In 1983, Tsukuda released Hoth (a.k.a. "The Game of Battle on Hoth"), my personal favorite of the three. The Imperial walkers are huge in this game, each one has six different counters for the locations of the torso, head, and feet. The walker feet smash any other units they step on. A Snowspeeders may fire its harpoon at a walker's foot, circling its cable ("wire" in the original Japanese) around the vehicle and trip it up. If Luke Skywalker's speeder is shot down, he can become a terror on the battlefield, attacking Imperial units with his lightsaber.
Tsukuda also released Endor (a.k.a. "The Game of the Combat on Moon Endor") in 1983. The game starts with the players constructing a new game board by using terrain tiles of bushes and forest surrounding the underground bunker entrance that leads to the Empire's shield generator. The Rebel units are all hidden on the map with decoy counters and traps to spring on the Imperial forces. The Empire units are powerful, but must hunt down and find the Rebels and ewoks camouflaged in the surrounding forests. Speeder bikes have a 1-in-6 chance of smashing into a tree for every forest hex they travel through.
Who Made These Games?
Tsukuda's games were designed by the prolific game designer Atsutoshi Okada. He was a fan of Avalon Hill wargames (published by Hobby Japan) and anime (he refers to himself as an otaku) so he designed a Mobile Suit Gundam miniatures game for play at conventions. This led to getting hired by Tsukuda Hobby and designing "Squad Leader for Gundam," which became Jabro. This first game led to a wave of science fiction and anime "simulation games" in Japan from Tsukuda and others, popular enough to have their own television commercials. Okada had a six year career with Tsukuda, designing countless games for them. He also
created inspired the creation of [edit 5 Oct 2022] new Dougram and Votoms games for Takara's terrific Dual Magazine. By my count, Okada-san designed and published more than 40 games in the 1980s. He took a break from game design during the 1990s, then created Panzertales: World Tank Division in 2003.
Translated Rule Book Downloads
Okada-san's Star Wars games have never been translated into English, until now! You can download my new translations of the Tsukuda Hobby trilogy at these links (Note, a Board Game Geek account is required for downloading as that site is hosting the files. If you cannot sign onto BGG, send me a message):
Death Star: https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/207946/tsukuda-star-wars-death-star-english-rule-book
And More in Print!
Also, I recently wrote "Destroy the Death Star," an article for Star Wars Insider magazine #195. This piece is a historical record of all the different ways players have been able to blow up the Death Star (and Death Star II) in electronic games, board games, card games, and video games over the years, including Okada-san's Death Star game. You can order a copy here: https://titan-comics.com/m/33-star-wars-insider-195/